In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik has an excellent piece pointing out the true threats to U.S. democracy, which transcend partisan concerns. As patriotic Americans, can we recognize these threats, separately from policy outcomes we like or dislike? What bright-line events would be difficult to remedy by sitting passively until the next election? [Read more →]
In episode #26 of Politics & Polls, Julian Zelizer and I discuss Indivisible with two of its co-authors: Ezra Levin and Angel Padilla, former Democratic Congressional staffers. In 2010, they saw the impressive power of Tea Party activists as they swept through the halls of Congress. Ezra and Angel describe how those staffers occupied offices, yelled through mail slots, and even spat on one of them. They recommend that Democrats take a page from the Tea Party book – minus the spitting of course.
On the first day of the new Congress, the House Republican Conference reversed its proposed rules change, in which an independent ethics commission would have been weakened. However, a public onslaught of phone calls was able to stop the change.
Always remember: phone calls are most effective, far more than email. Look up your Congressman/woman here. Or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Representative or Senator.
Bruce Springsteen has questioned Donald Trump’s competence to be president. His opinion is typical of the majority of Americans. How could voters have elected someone who is so widely seen as unready for the job? One answer is that polarization impairs the inclination of voters to act upon such problems.
In a Gallup poll released yesterday, about half of Americans expressed pessimism about Donald Trump’s readiness for the Presidency. This is a 30-point deterioration from the previous three presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Trump’s success in 2016 was made possible by partisan polarization. The net favorability of major candidates, whether winners or losers, has declined precipitously over the last sixty years.
It is amazing to think that Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney would attract such opprobrium. Stepping far back from partisan politics, their accomplishments and personal qualities are admirable. Yet by Gallup’s measure, candidates Clinton and Romney were seen as negatively as Barry Goldwater and George McGovern.
This phenomenon is closely related to the polarization that has gripped U.S. politics for the last several decades. Increasingly, voters see the opposition as totally unacceptable. Under such conditions, it becomes harder to detect genuine differences – or to act upon them. High negatives make crossover voting unthinkable.
Also, with such high negatives for both Clinton and Trump, many voters saw both candidates unfavorably, despite the fact that only one of the candidates (Trump) had his/her competence for office seriously questioned. Today, majorities of Americans do not express confidence in Trump’s ability to prevent major scandals, use military force wisely, or handle an international crisis. Trump’s extreme low scores in these domains are concerning for the coming year.
For one of your first reads of the year, here are two excellent pieces by Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor. In the first piece, he describes the negative prospects for the press in 2017 – many of which are somewhat self-inflicted. However, on the up side, he has a second piece. In it he lists actions that the press can take to do better in 2017. Even if you are not a journalist, please read these – and hold your favorite (or un-favorite) members of the press to these standards.
On the New York Times opinion page, the editors suggest (“The Stolen Supreme Court Seat,” December 24th) that President-elect Donald Trump could nominate President Obama’s choice, Judge Merrick Garland, as a gesture of goodwill. I myself suggested this on CNN last month (that was the point, you guys, not the bug – go watch). This is unlikely, to say the least…but there’s still a long-shot way to get a vote on Garland on January 3rd. It involves playing Constitutional hardball.
Update: Good comment thread. One reader quotes a former Republican Senate staffer who says that the rules prevent this. I am somewhat skeptical of the source. But if objections are raised to this aggressive approach to overcoming the GOP blockade, they will surely take the form described. Other readers give counterarguments.[Read more →]
Sometimes the Declaration of Independence is hauled out as an argument for limited government. But historian Steve Pincus points out that the Declaration was actually a complaint that the government should do more to promote and protect citizens’ welfare. Blew my mind. Julian Zelizer and I interviewed him about his new book: “Heart of the Declaration: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government.” Link:http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls25